A disturbing phenomenon evident during both the cloning and RU486 debates in the Australian Federal Parliament in 2006 has been the number of anti-life politicians who profess adherence to the Catholic faith. They must be made to answer for their public dissent and Church leaders should be addressing this public scandal with a degree of urgency.
Senator Claire Moore, for example, admits in a newspaper profile, "I've been involved in pro-choice groups and women's groups for a long time. I'm a practising Catholic, which is terribly confusing for a lot of people and sometimes confusing for me."
Malcolm Turnbull visited the Vatican as part of an official delegation on Palm Sunday 2006 while his website proudly beamed his association with World Youth Day (including hosting three prominent international archbishops at his family home).
Status of embryo
Happy to play World Youth Day liaison and gracious host, Turnbull concludes an article with this prayerful reflection on the 2008 Catholic event, "Let us pray that World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney will fill the world with Christ's love and that all of us who are engaged in this great endeavour shall share in and be inspired by God's passionate love for the human adventure."
This is all very edifying, but during the passage of the recently passed cloning Bill, Catholic convert Turnbull rhetorically asked the Federal Parliament regarding the embryo, "[W]hile these human cells are alive, can they be regarded as a human person?"
He continued, "It seems to me that our society has already reached a conclusion to the effect that an embryo at this very early stage is more in the nature of a potential than an actual human being and that the rights of this microscopic bundle of cells are not equal to those of a foetus, let alone a newborn baby."
Turnbull's temerity is startling. Having stood up at the end of the RU486 debate to clarify his support for the abortion pill, he was then sent to Rome on behalf of the Government to deliver a message to Benedict XVI. Meanwhile, Turnbull offers comments on his website about the latest papal encyclical, the Eucharist and the liturgy, and quotes passages from Scripture.
Dr Brendan Nelson, who credits the Jesuits for influencing his decision to go into medicine, proudly proclaimed during the abortion pill debate to believe in "One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" and then proceeded to vote in favour of RU486, not to mention cloning.
Teresa Gambaro stood in Parliament on 4 December and affirmed, "As a Roman Catholic, I take my faith and the issues of human life very seriously." Yet on 6 December she voted for cloning and for the harvesting of eggs from aborted females.
After giving a dissertation on Thomas Aquinas and moral theology, Warren Snowdon declared, "I feel comfortable in my position as a Catholic in being able to support this legislation."
Brendan O'Connor, another Catholic MP, also found that quoting Aquinas led him to vote in favour of plundering late term aborted females to create clones.
Joel Fitzgibbon talked about "my Catholic faith" and then voted for cloning (in addition to his earlier vote for RU486), as did Anthony Albanese in supporting RU486, mentioning his Irish-Italian Catholic background. Maria Vamvakinou "consulted her parish priest" before voting for cloning.
Catharine King, conceding - with an apparent tinge of regret - that she was "brought up Catholic", claimed that abortion, embryo experimentation, foetal farming and cloning are all acceptable. Another Catholic MP, Patrick Farmer, who is on the same World Youth Day committee as Turnbull, voted in favour of cloning as did Stephen Smith and Joe Hockey.
The list seems endless, as is the case at each state level, where we find Claire Martin (Northern Territory Chief Minister), Steve Bracks, Robert Hulls and Morris Iemma, all Catholic (at some point at least) and all with anti-life legislative records.
Such individuals should not be invited to cut the ribbon at Catholic school fetes, speak at diocesan conferences, stand on the stage at World Youth Day, or take active leadership positions in their parish.
Australia's bishops need to respond to this public scandal as many US bishops have already done. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted (Phoenix Diocese), for example, in a document titled Catholics in the Public Square, instructing the faithful on the dilemma of public officials betraying Church teaching, wrote:
"If a politician is actively supporting and furthering the culture of death, he is not only causing scandal; he is sinning. Similarly, when a politician performs actions (like voting) that allow for abortions and even promote abortions ... that politician is materially co-operating in grave sin. When this occurs, then the politician cannot receive Holy Communion without previously making a good confession. A good confession would require sincere sorrow for such sin and a firm purpose of making amendment. Since the harm done would be public in nature, the amendment should also be public."
Australian Catholic politicians who have voted for cloning and abortion should make a public renunciation of their actions. And while we should pray for them, this does not preclude action. Our Catholic community through the bishops must reproach them officially for their scandalous public dissent.
Marcel White is 22 years old, having converted to Catholicism in 2005. He is an undergraduate Law Student at the University of Melbourne.